February 7, 2014
TTO Scoresheet Podcast
This week, we’re taking a look at shortstops. If you tune into our podcast, you’ll hear our thoughts on individual players and strategy, only some of which we cover below. We also answered a number of reader questions on keepers, and we discussed what keeper rules we’d change if we held the keys to the Scoresheet kingdom. If you need help with any last minute keeper decisions, feel free to drop us a line and we’ll do our best to get back to you before the deadline.
Here’s how we rank shortstops in Scoresheet:
We see shortstop as a relatively deeper position than second base. However, that doesn’t mean this position is one that you’ll want to skip when selecting your keepers, as the quality drops fairly precipitously at roughly the 12th-14th rounds. If you were starting a continuing league, it seems like the best value is found in the middle tier (roughly 4th-7th rounds), with Jean Segura, Ian Desmond, Starlin Castro, and Brad Miller all young and likely protectable for years, and the older Jhonny Peralta and J.J. Hardy providing reliable and potentially underrated stability.
Another thing to keep in mind is that even the best of us sometimes forget to check a player’s defensive rating. Don’t make that mistake when you are deciding on your shortstop. The average defensive rating is 4.75, and there are bunch of shortstops with a rating 4.80 or higher. Some of whom can even hit a little. Plus, it may sound obvious, but the nice thing about the defensive rating is that it is the one aspect of player performance you know with 100 percent certainty before the season begins.
We’ll delve into specific prospects below, but first a note on overall prospect strategy. This time of year, it's common to get excited about the shortstops jumping up prospect lists--expect to hear buzz this year about Javier Baez and Carlos Correa. We recognize the tremendous upside that these kinds of players can have, and we also support drafting and keeping elite prospects with skills to produce at up the middle positions--it's a key to winning a league more than once. However, you should use caution if you're considering drafting one of these prospects with one of your early draft picks in the initial draft for your league. Even elite prospects can flame out and the initial draft for a league will lay the foundation for your team going forward. Missing on a top-five pick can be a significant setback. So while you'll see shortstop prospects that are sprinkled up in our rankings list with many of the solid regulars, and we would certainly keep them with late-round picks in an ongoing league, it may be wise to avoid them with your early picks in the initial draft.
Let’s look a little more closely at some shortstops to consider.
Okay, you’ve seen Andrelton Simmons field. Forget that, even though he’s already the best defender in Scoresheet. Due to the mechanics of the game, he’ll never bring back quite the same value that he does in real life. It’s his offense that should get you excited in this league, as it appears Simmons is ready to beat out more base hits and unlock some of that latent power potential. He should never be an offensive star, but with his top-of-the-scale range, he doesn’t have to be.
There is… ahem, some controversy among the authors as to Andrus’ long-term potential, but count the Outcome who wrested the keyboard away for this sentence among the detractors, to a point. We all agree that Andrus is a keeper in nearly all formats, but there’s a difference between a player with low power, and one with no power. Like the King, Elvis is a singles hitter. Once you accept that, the difference between his keeper value and that of a Jed Lowrie becomes much less apparent, and Andrus will probably go rounds ahead in startup drafts.
CUT BUBBLE / REDRAFT FOR VALUE
If you're stuck without a strong keeper at shortstop, one of your options is to put together a platoon. There aren't many left handed shortstops in either the AL or the NL going into this year, so if you're going to try this strategy, keep your eyes out for Brandon Crawford and Didi Gregorius in the NL and Brad Miller and Eric Sogard in the AL. Of these, only Crawford and Miller are certain to get the playing time of a starter (Gregorius is in a spring training death match with Chris Owings and Sogard has to fend off Alberto Callaspo for at bats at second base), so act accordingly in your draft if you plan to setup a platoon. Finding the right handed half of the platoon is significantly easier, as most shortstops will have neutral or beneficial splits against LHP. If you land one of these two left handed starting shortstops, you won't have a tremendous need to play the right handed side of the platoon, so picking up a guy with defensive value at short and some positional flexibility can be a way to fill two uses with one roster spot. Guys like Sean Rodriguez, Maicer Izturis, and Daniel Descalso all have eligibility at multiple positions and could help fill out your platoon.
The downside to platooning your shortstop is that mid-tier draft picks are valuable, and it’s a dicey proposition to spend one of them on a hitter who’s unlikely to pinch hit for you. However, if you do make the active choice to go down this road, Cozart is the guy who can “crush” lefties while one of the aforementioned players holds down the strong side of a platoon. Cozart’s limited pop and defensive range carry over well enough from real life to make him worth a pick, but he’ll kill you as a regular starter in most shallow leagues.
It happens to all of us. Late in the draft you realize that you forgot to erase last year’s shortstop from your roster spreadsheet and you are looking at a heaping helping of AAA Infielder. Or maybe your starting shortstop is injury-prone, but you’ve spent the last five rounds drafting Single-A pitchers. There’s no need to fear: Pedro Florimon is here. He’s not, for lack of a better word, good. But he heads into the season with the starting gig in Minnesota. And he’s better than no one!